In: KulturPoetik 2016, Heft 2


Dietmar Voss


Ästhetische Semiotik des Bösen. Avantgardistische Dichtung und negative Trieblust




Based on the hypothesis that the concept of »Evil« is a product of monotheism that could only develop in settled societies with patriarchal hierarchies, this essay aims to demonstrate how »Evil« became the centre of avantgarde aesthetics in the 19th century. As can be seen in the works of Poe, Baudelaire, Rimbaud etc., Evil is no longer spoken of in tones of blasphemous conjuration, and it loses its aspects of satanic power that were so popular in the Gothic Novel. The result is a new aesthetics of Evil that abandons traditional, i.e. moral, standards for measuring Evil, and thus allows it to be imagined from a multitude of perspectives. To decode the depiction of Evil in literature, instruments provided by psychoanalysis and semiology have proven helpful. On the one hand, the language of Evil can be analysed as a sign structure of (sadist or masochist) impulse fantasies. On the other hand, the language of Evil is derived from mythological archetypes from the collective memory of antiquity.